I was waiting for my bank statement printout in the office of my branch manager when a man walked in. I knew who he was. But the man was not in his usual cheerful mood that morning. I thought it was strange for a person I knew for nearly five years to completely ignore me.
He just collected a bundle of papers from his manager's desk and walked out without a word. I would normally assume he had a bad day but there was something in him that made me look sharply at his boss.
"He was asked to leave the bank by our regional manager," she told me, "poor man!"
I felt for him. I know, from my relatively long association with him, that he had four kids. I was so shocked that I just looked at the manager without really seeing her. She took that as an accusation and quickly defended herself by saying, "nothing to do with me. It was his performance that got him the sack".
She did not fool me. There was something in that lame defence that gave her away. She had something to do with it. People in the head office would not know much of the staff in branches. He was obviously fired at her recommendation. There must have been something in my face that made her angry. She asked me if I could wait for the statement in the waiting lounge. I knew she did not want me there. I also knew right there and then what it was like to work under her. My first reaction was to stay put and to report her as "rude" to her seniors. But that, I thought, would be taking revenge for somebody's course. So I left her office and sat quietly on the lounge.
That gave me the opportunity to watch the man. He had a brown carton and several plastic bags in his hands. He slowly put them on his desk and almost in slow motion, started clearing his stuff. There were half a dozen of his colleagues around him pretending to be busy but they were clearly upset to see their friend in that state. It is funny how you could clear your office station in five minutes with things you put there for five years. I saw him packing everything and one of the staff offered to help carry the bags in his car. He came back a few minutes later to check if he had not left anything behind. He might have wiped out everything there but not the memory of his service in that bank in the minds of his colleagues.
I watched him standing awkwardly next to his desk unsure whether to be the first one to say goodbye. They just looked at him. Words are difficult in those situations. So he just waved his hand in a circle motion and walked away. He passed the office of her former boss then took a step back. He entered and I saw him stretch his hand. She got up and shook it. It was very brief but sweet and sour. It was a gesture on his part to show that there were no hard feelings. I collected my statement minutes later and walked out. The man was still there outside arranging his stuff in the car. He now had all the time in the world. I went to talk to him. He smiled and said I would have to look for somebody else to do my bank transfers. He was taking it well because he knew that life must go on. Before leaving him I knew he would be alright, like all of us when we know the sun will always shine for the rest of our lives.